Talent Management and Succession Planning

Talent Management is a process by which a business develops capability to identify and develop specific employees more deliberately, eventually to take up leadership roles.

Business Imperative

Having a pool of competent future leaders is the key to long term business certainty, for any organization, especially in today’s competitive and unpredictable business environment. This, in fact, is a critical parameter today for firm valuations. Installing this function and process in organizations helps build such a pool.

Typical Intervention Process

Talent management challenges are different across organizations. Some are battling attrition. Others don’t believe most senior managers are prepared for jobs of higher complexity and still others are to functionally focused to devote time to develop overall managerial qualities of their employees


In a particular organization, there was low agreement on who comprised ‘talent’. We came in and defined Functional Standards. This, along with the leadership competency model, was used to carry out Development Centers for consistently performing managers, leading to development of Individual Development Plans for each of them. The Development Centers led to a conversation among senior leadership in which all profiles were discussed forthrightly, to arrive at a short list of high potential managers whose development was to be prioritized.

Outcome

The business gets a realistic sense of the extent of the shortfall of talent for critical roles. This brings in a sense of urgency and seriousness around leadership development among senior managers. Managers turn more developmental in their orientation. Succession plans for senior leadership positions, and growth and diversification plans of the business begin to sound credible. Over the years, the organization itself gets vitalized by seeing some of the managers among them moving onto larger roles across businesses, geographies, and functions, based on performance.

Concept

The business-as-usual approach to people development even when well-delivered, falls far short of the challenge of developing pools of potential leaders for the business. The significant challenges of business survival and growth, and the growing diversity of employee aspirations, have made it an imperative that organizations, regardless of size, focus on leader development at the level of the individual. This is obviously challenging when there are hundreds of managers.


This has led to creating a function for identifying and then effecting focused development for a relatively small set of managers (typically not more than 5%) considered to have more than average potential for performing in roles of higher complexity in the future. When talent is managed intelligently, there is effective development of high potential managers across levels and functions in the organization, leading to the situation of talent surpluses – a rare, happy problem, if ever there was one! Pundits working in this area estimate that only a small percentage of companies that have set up this function, have come to experience such surpluses, and those that have, have taken at least a decade from launch to get there.


Talent Management in many job advertisements seems to be the new name of the senior level hiring function. Ideally, we believe, its focus on hiring should be small – recruiters ought to worry about hire quality. Done correctly, it should have three foci: attracting high caliber talent to the business, identifying high potential employees early, and developing the identified talent effectively future.

Case Studies

In a particular organization, there was low agreement on who comprised ‘talent’. There was no annual process of looking at the talent pool. Due to unhappy earlier experiences with Assessment / Development Centers, there was also dissatisfaction with such processes done purely with behavioral competencies as criteria. We came in and defined Functional Standards. We then trained senior leaders of the organization to be effective Observers (our preferred term for those who are typically called Assessors in Assessment Centers). The Functional Standards framework, along with the leadership competency model, was used to carry out Development Centers for consistently performing managers, leading to development of Individual Development Plans for each of them. The Development Centers led to a conversation among the senior leadership in which all profiles were discussed forthrightly, to arrive at a short list of high potential managers whose development was to be prioritized.


In another organization that belonged to a large conglomerate, the conglomerate had a well-defined talent management process. However, the leaders of the client organization were not aligned to the process – they were not aware of the specific ways in which they were expected to priorities and hold talent-related conversations with some members of their team, and the manner in which the profile document needed to be filled after the conversation. We ran workshops for the senior leaders of the organization, to educate them on their responsibilities vis-à-vis the talent management system. We then sat with a few of the senior leaders, individually, and helped them plan out their actions. The consequence was a cogent set of profiles in the conglomerate’s overall talent management system from this business – selected through application of a uniform set of criteria, with profile documents worded in a consistent manner. As anyone who has run large-scale talent management systems can vouch, these are the two difficult-to-orchestrate elements that contribute significantly to effective decisions.

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